Polarion ALM Review

The amount of document control, combined with review and release probabilities and signatures is really useful

What is our primary use case?

We mainly use Polarion ALM for requirements engineering as well as task planning and task execution, but we mainly use it as a documentation and traceability tool.

I work in the medical device development field. Even though Polarion is quite expensive, it's quite a good solution for medical device development in general, especially for software development.

Within our previous company, not that many people used Polarion as it was only used within our department relating to medical device development. I'd say around 20 to 30 people were using it. It's hard to say as we had around six licenses with some floating licenses.

What is most valuable?

I like that there is, more or less, a single solution for everything. In regards to Polarion, if you're not experienced, it can be quite complicated, so you may need weeks or even months to familiarize yourself with the tools and how it operates. Once you understand how it works it becomes a very useful tool; we mainly use it for requirements engineering, so for us, the traceability is a really important feature. I also like all of the possibilities for different reports and the option to have a "what you see is what you get" editor for all documents and especially, for the release of documents. 

The amount of document control, combined with review and release probabilities and signatures is really useful. For example, Confluence does not have these capabilities. You would have to install Comala, with its plug-in that is used for document control, and even then, it would not be comparable. Polarion's document control is one of the best that I have used. In terms of development itself, having the work items and requirements altogether in one place and being able to control them by Staples, is really helpful.

What needs improvement?

The ease-of-use could be improved a little, but at the same time, it's a complex tool so that has to be expected; such a complex tool cannot be completely straightforward. 

The license model is okay for large companies but would be quite expensive for smaller enterprises.

Also, the beginner's tutorials are quite outdated — working on versions from 2010 or 2012. More up-to-date tutorials with different use cases would be a nice adjustment.

It's always possible to improve such tools by adding more features and improving automatization. For example, we never tried the connection to build service. I believe it's possible to do that, to automatically link it to the software build process. We only used it more or less manually. It's possible that, that feature could be improved because I believe there was a reason why we didn't do it, but I can't explain in more detail as I was not really involved in the process.

In general, I would like to see improvements on the information and materials.

For how long have I used the solution?

My current company has been using Polarion ALM for quite a long time, since approximately 2012. I personally started working with Polarion ALM four years ago.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I don't remember any real bugs. We always had some (more or less) minor questions relating to different issues. I don't completely remember, but we had direct contact to our vendor here in Austria, so in most cases, problems could be solved in a more or less direct way. So no really big problems. 

How are customer service and technical support?

We had a nice experience with technical support. Contacting them was like gaining secret knowledge because so much information is not published, like macros and snippets of code and so on. If you just ask, they will give you different pieces of code for different purposes — for reports for example. You couldn't find that hidden code on your own but if you ask, Siemens will, more or less, give it to you for free. As it's clear that they don't want to publish everything on their website, just ask if they have a solution that is yet to be published, and maybe they can help you out.

How was the initial setup?

I was not involved in the initial setup. Still, when you're working with Microsoft, creating your own code within the system, you have to be the admin. Also, when updating to a newer version, problems can occur leading to the loss of older, developed pieces of code. It's a small issue but you need to be aware of it in order to handle it properly. Other than that, the setup is quite straightforward. 

What about the implementation team?

Maintenance was distributed between several people. We had one main administrator. We were quite a large company with 1,300 people in total, but there were only around 60 of us working in the medical device domain. We had one central IP infrastructure, but they only provided us with computers to the hardware. We managed the tool within the departments on our own. We had one administrator, who was the master administrator, who did the updates, and so on. We also had several tool administrators. In other words, we were two units within the department and for each unit, we had one administrator.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The license model is okay for large companies but would be quite expensive for smaller enterprises.

What other advice do I have?

If you're a beginner to Life Cycle Requirements Engineering in general, I'd recommend that you familiarize yourself with the basics of requirement engineering in order to gain independence of the tool itself. Eventually, when you start using Polarion, start from the very beginning. Even though the tutorials are out-of-date, they are still helpful. 

We also used our vendors as our trainers and teachers. We booked them for three or four days to get a proper introduction to Polarion. Starting off with an expert is a really good idea, it will cost you, but it will save you so much time. One expert instructor can teach more than 20 workers at once, saving you hours or even weeks.

I would rate Polarion really quite high. We were happy with it, and nowadays, without this type of tool, it's not possible to develop medical devices independently of software or hardware. I would give Polarion a rating of nine out of 10.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

**Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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